Sunday, March 28, 2010

The new play Shunt Money from the folks at Shunt - taking place in a huge tobacco warehouse (apparently once owned by Fidel Castro) down the road from their normal premises in the cavernous, catacomb-like railway arches underneath London Bridge station – is certainly visually spectacular in a way that can rival even interactive performance collective Punchdrunk’s mindblowing theatre productions (which GoodnightLondon has covered elsewhere on this blog).
Without wanting to give too much away, let’s just say that inside the panopticon-like warehouse, you feel like you are on the set of Brazil or an updated version of 1984, with dry ice in the darkness and ludicrously dressed riot police (unsurprisingly played by actors/volunteers rather than real police – or at least I’m assuming so) guarding a bronze, huge three-storey Victorian-looking metallic engine structure, replete with steam pulleys, pistons, levers, engines, and dials, resembling something that you might find in an underwater submarine in World War II, or from the set of Metropolis. Towering in the centre of the warehouse and belching out smoke like some being that’s alive, it’s certainly a site to behold, and is even more spectacular when you are trapped in it’s belly inside, with it’s transparent flooring revealing chambers, rooms and saunas below and above, while a bald figure all in white resembling Caliban in Greenaway’s Prospero’s Books descends from ceilings, scurries spider-like through the rooms below and around the opaque roof, and does somersaults around the audience at intervals. Who is the voyeur, the audience or the actors? It’s difficult to tell who is really spying on who, just as the seamless visuals can’t quite hide the handling of the story, which bases itself around Émile Zola’s L’Argent – a novel in the late 1800s prophetically inspired by the collapse of the French bank Union Generale, who went under as a consequence of dire financial management, greed, speculation and over-investment. The relevance is obvious when placed within the context of the current financial crisis (particularly the collapse of Lehman Brothers) and the mismanagement that has took place on Wall Street and the Square Mile, yet the dialogue was so cryptic and obfuscated and the script so impenetrable that it became difficult to really know what was going on half of the time when observing the interaction of the characters as they span their baseless pyramid schemes to each other. Perhaps this impenetrability was deliberate, intended to approximate or signify the Byzantine nature of the doomed dealings and wheelings – grounded, as it turned out, on nothing - that was being depicted, just as we now know that much of the financial dealings of business moguls in the real world was based on an illusion.
Regardless, Punchdrunk’s performance of Faust as a contrast somehow made complete sense even if you weren’t following the story closely, simply because the set design and themes explored in each room captured the story so perfectly and expertly. Still, like watching cities being engulfed by tidal waves and storms in The Day After Tomorrow while ignoring the schmaltzy Hollywood character plotting, the visuals alone made it worthwhile. After attending this and the Punchdrunk performances of Faust and The Masque of the Red Death, it seems obvious where the next location for an interactive theatre performance of this kind should be: Battersea Power Station, a venue that would truly make for an incredible backdrop (which is did, tantalisingly, in Children of Men, and which has at least hosted a couple of exhibitions). Yet, with depressing inevitability, the status of that stunning monument, just as with the handling of the banking system by those responsible that led to the current financial meltdown, remains mired in staggering mismanagement and negligence. Even if Shunt Money’s script was flawed at times, its central message has never been at a more prescient time.

Shunt Money image: © Shunt Money website/Christopher Sims.
Battersea Power Station photo: © Saatchi Gallery website/2006 Parkview International

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Slightly late to post this, but...RIP Mark Linkous and Alex Chilton. 3rd/Sister Lovers will never quite sound the same.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

I will be taking part in a photo exhibition on the theme of water, accompanied by live music, on a boat on the Thames. It'll take place on Thursday 18th March at Bar & Co, Temple Pier, Victoria Embankment, WCR2. Nearest tube: Temple.

Kaparte Promotions presents:
The Sound of Water
A visual & sonic event
The symbolism of water has a universal undertone of purity and fertility. Symbolically, it is often viewed as the source of life itself as we see evidence in countless creation myths in which life emerges from primordial waters. 11 artists photographers and four music acts celebrate the relationship between the element and the surroundings, showing with their images and sound their personal vision of water, simply on a boat, on the Thames.
Thursday 18 March
Bar & Co, Temple Pier
Victoria Embankment
Robert Allwood, George Bush, Sophia Dawson, Kelvin Hayes, Ben McDonnell, Angela Last, George Koutsoudopoulous, Poison Creeper & Andrea, Karoliina Hujanen, Grahame Rockhill, Dominic Simpson
Gagarin, Platform Five (5), Adam Donen, Will Connor (Vultures)
Plus a selection of tunes from opera to post-industrial and special visual effects...
Curated by Klarita Pandolfi
Doors 7.00pm
Entry £5 on the door

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Recluse will be returning to The Flea Pit on Columbia Road E2 Thursday 4rd March 2010.

Live acts:
Tom White - Floating surround-sound textures from the smallfish/Hibernate artist.
VLK - Textural noise using max msp processed cello,
found objects and electronics.
Burning Zoo - Guitar noise loops and primordial electronics.

£3, 8pm. DJ sets from Hybernation, visuals from
FBox Records >

EDIT: This was cancelled due to venue issues

Monday, March 01, 2010

Me on the latest Sunburned Hand of the Man album - though given that they did twelve albums alone in 2009, it may not be their latest any longer...perhaps with the increasingly cheap access of music technology and production these days, there's just too much music? Then again, Sunburned are simply following in the DIY ethic espoused by Merzbow, Sun City Girls, The New Blockaders, etc. and other underground artists in the 80s, in which their standard practice would be to release an enormous amount of mostly improvised music, no matter how lo-fi the sound; the only difference now is the format - a cornucopia of CD-Rs rather than tapes.
What's interesting with that Sunburned album is the way they approximate something similar to the early 80s focus on drums and funk in (mostly) white guitar music, with heavily rhythmic bands such as Liquid Liquid (whose 'Optimo' track - or at least what sounds like it - I'm pretty sure Sunburned sample at the start of A), 23 Skidoo, A Certain Ratio, and even This Heat, as well as very early 80s Eno - which may, of course, be down to the presence of Keiran 'Four Tet' Hebden in the producer's chair. For a band often derided (with some justification) as a shambling jam band, Sunburned can actually venture into some pretty original and innovative places.